- 17 December 2019
- Transport / Logistics Services
The High Court has ruled that a number of ‘bugs, errors and defects’ in the Post Office Horizon accounting system had caused ‘discrepancies’ in subpostmasters’ branch accounts.
Due to accounting errors a number of subpostmasters have ended up jailed while others lost their livelihoods.
It now seems likely that the Horizon accounting system was at fault in many of those cases. Hundreds of subpostmasters took the Post Office to court over the matter, which as well as prosecutions led to a large number of bankruptcies.
Last week the Post Office agreed a settlement of some £57.8 million with some 550 claimants. Mr Justice Fraser of the High Court approved the settlement.
The ruling also covered the outcome of the second of two trials. The judge ruled that there was a ‘material risk’ that Horizon caused the problems and that this is a major step in the prosecutions being overturned.
In a statement outside court after the hearing, James Hartley, partner at Freeths law firm, said: “They they have finally been proved to have been right all along when they have said that the Horizon system was a possible cause of shortfalls in their branch accounts.
“These claimants can now walk with their heads held high after all these years.
“This judgment, together with the settlement reached last week, are important stepping stones to achieving much-needed closure for these postmasters.
“They can now start to move on with their lives.”
Speaking outside court, Tracey Merritt, who was a subpostmaster in Yetminster, Dorset, said: “It’s been a very long road. It’s been a real rollercoaster of emotions.
“But now I can honestly say the relief is immense. When people say anything now, I can say, ‘I told you all along that I didn’t do anything wrong’.”
She said she struggled find work since being accused, adding: “I lost my dignity, I lost my reputation. I couldn’t get a job.”
Mr Justice Fraser said that he would refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to evidence given by Horizon’s developers Fujitsu in relation to previous court cases.
He said: “Based on the knowledge that I have gained, I have very grave concerns regarding veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system.”
Currently some 30 criminal cases against subpostmasters are being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission that investigates potential miscarriages of justice.
In a statement following Monday’s hearing, Post Office chairman Tim Parker said: “In reaching last week’s settlement with the claimants, we accepted our past shortcomings and I, both personally and on behalf of the Post Office, sincerely apologised to those affected when we got things wrong.
“We have given a commitment to learning lessons from these events, and today’s judgment underlines the need to do so.”